Miles Mikolas is starting to show what made him such a star in the NBP, and has all but erased fans’ concerns from early spring training.
The Cardinal righty tossed 7 innings of 1-run ball, and never looked particularly troubled as he coasted through a Reds offense that had scored the 3rd-fewest runs in baseball coming into to today. Mixing his 88-96mph fastballs with a 78mph curveball and an 88mph slider, Mikolas breezed through his start, needing just 10 pitches or fewer in 4 different innings, and setting down the side in order in 3 different innings.
Greg Garcia and Tommy Pham carried the Cardinals on the offensive side. Garcia yanked a pair of homers off Reds starter Brandon Finnegan, and later added a double. With Fowler and Carpenter getting the day off, Pham stepped into the spotlight as the Cardinals’ lead off hitter, and shone. He had a walk, a pair of singles, a pair of stolen bases, and drove in Garcia with a double of his own. The Cards’ catalyst is now batting .327/.439/.491 on the season, with a 162 wRC+ that is good for 27th in baseball. What’s crazy is that still feels low.
The defense and baserunning were adequate. Munoz was charged with a tough error when Adam Duvall topped a Jordan Hicks fastball that took a funny second hop and caught the young third-baseman in the chest, but the likes of Bader, DeJong, and even Mikolas flashed the leather on some tough plays. Pham had his aforementioned stolen bases, but also made some heads-up advancements on fly outs, and Jose Martinez added a sneaky extra base onto what looked to be just a flare single to RF.
All told, this was an enjoyable game.
Finnegan had a hard time finding his mechanics early on. He walked Pham & DeJong (!!) on 10 pitches to start the game, constantly missing up and away to the righty hitters. After a visit from his catcher, Finnegan was able to record a trio of outs from the next 3 batters he faced. Martinez moved Pham over to 3B with a fly out to RF, Ozuna scored him and moved DeJong to 2B with a fly out to CF, and Molina cut the rally short with a scorched one-hopper at the shortstop. Finnegan was at 23 pitches. 1-0 Cardinals.
Happy to be facing anyone but the Brewers, who had tagged him for a 6.00 ERA in his first 2 starts of the year, Mikolas had a nice, easy 1st frame. He froze Hamilton with a curveball at the top of the zone (Hamilton disagreed with home plate ump Todd Tichenor, and FOX’s digital strike zone), got Peraza to ground out to short, and Votto to ground out to 2B. He required just 10 pitches.
Finnegan regained his control in his 2nd inning, but encountered a new problem: the long ball. He nearly surrendered a home run to Bader when the Cardinal outfielder slugged a fly ball down the LF line that was long enough, but a few feet foul. After he ultimately retired him by inducing a ground out to 2B, and struck out Munoz, he served up a 1-2 meatball of a slider down the middle to Greg Garcia, which the reserve infielder tagged all the way to the third row in RF. Mikolas grounded out to SS to end the inning. Finnegan was at 41 pitches. 2-0 Cardinals.
Mikolas picked up where he left off. He got Gennett to ground out on a hot shot up the middle right at DeJong in the shift, a frustrating result for the playful second baseman. After Mikolas issued his first walk of the season to Duvall, he got Barnhart & Ervin to pop out into foul territory. He was at 25 pitches.
Third time’s a charm for the Cincinnati lefty. After Pham singled on a grounder up the middle and stole 2B, Finnegan struck out DeJong swinging, walked Martinez, and induced a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Ozuna. His pitch count was 55.
Mikolas was cruising. He capped off his first trip through the order by popping Pennington up into short LF, which required a wide-ranging catch by Paul DeJong to prevent a Texas Leaguer, and getting Finnegan & Hamilton to ground out on balls to 2B & SS, respectively. Mikolas was at 35 pitches.
The reserves banded together to make their case for more playing time in the 4th. After Molina lined out to 2B, Harrison Bader laced a single through the left side of the infield. Then, after Munoz struck out swing and Bader stole second, Greg Garcia shook off a brush-back fastball and clobbered his second home run of the afternoon, a rough carbon copy of his first. Mikolas struck out on Finnegan’s 74th pitch to end the inning. 4-0 Cardinals.
Still cruising, as cool as can be, Mikolas struck out Peraza and got Votto to fly out to LF before he surrendered his first hit of the afternoon to Scooter Gennett, who flipped a soft single over Munoz’s head. Duvall flew out to the track in CF to end the inning. Mikolas had thrown just 44 pitches.
Tommy Pham led off the 5th with another single, this one muscled out to RF. After he advanced to 2B on DeJong’s 5-3 fielder’s choice, and advanced to 3B on a straight steal, Jose Martinez brought him home on a duck snort double to short RF. Marcell Ozuna then followed with his first walk of the season. Reds manager Brian Price had stuck with his lefty this far, but could not abide that. Finnegan was at 91 pitches and his afternoon was done.
Austin Brice relieved Finnegan. The righty proceeded to get Molina to chase a low fastball and fly out to medium CF, and struck out Bader with a curveball. Brice required just 8 pitches, and would return for another inning. 5-0 Cardinals.
The Reds showed proof of life in the 5th. Tucker Barnhart got a run back by launching home run into one of the tunnels in RF (and almost hit a fan,) and Phillip Ervin followed by lacing a single to RF. But Mikolas was able to snuff out the threat by inducing a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Cliff Pennington, and struck out Austin Brice. He was still at just 58 pitches. 5-1 Cardinals.
Just as they did on Thursday, the Cardinals figured Brice out in his second inning. After Munoz struck out, Greg Garcia continued his big day with a double that rolled all the way to the RF wall. Then, after Mikolas struck out, Tommy Pham socked his third hit of the day with a double lined down the 3B line. DeJong struck out to end the inning. 6-1 Cardinals.
Mikolas was having his way with the Reds. It was nuts. He struck out Hamilton with a hard slider, then retired Peraza & Votto on a pair of come-backers. He was still at just 65 pitches.
Another righty, Dylan Floro, relieved Brice and made his Reds debut. He retired Martinez on a ground out with some help from new SS Alex Blandino, and then got Ozuna & Molina to fly out to RF. He threw 14 pitches.
Mikolas ran into some trouble in the 7th, but the defense flashed some leather and picked him up. Gennett led off with another single, and advanced when Duvall grounded into a 5-3 fielder’s choice that required a good play by Munoz to convert. Barnhart followed by lining a drive into short RF, but Bader saw it all the way and made a good diving catch to retire him. Then, after Ervin walked, Pennington slapped a line drive, but DeJong was able to get to it and end the threat. Mikolas was still at just 83 pitches, but his afternoon was over.
The Cardinals went quietly in the 8th. Still facing Floro, Bader flew out harmlessly to RF, Munoz lined out hard to 3B, and Garcia was finally retired on a ground out to 3B.
Greg Holland entered in relief of Mikolas. He sat around 92-93mph on his fastball and showed a nasty 77mph curveball and some 85mph sliders, all of which he used with much more precision than he did in his Cardinals debut. He retired Blandino on a pop out to short RF, and struck out Hamilton with one of the aforementioned curveballs. After pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco served a single to LF, Holland retired Votto on a come-backer. All told, he threw 17 pitches, 12 of which were strikes.
Raisel Iglesias, looking for some work, pitched the 9th. He greeted pinch-hitter Kolten Wong with a fastball to the calf, but then struck out Pham, and retired DeJong of fly out to LF. Martinez managed a walk to give Ozuna one more crack extending his hitting streak, but the Cardinals left fielder pulled a flare right at this Reds counter-part.
Jordan Hicks closed this one out. After Gennett slapped his 3rd hit of the day to LF, and Duvall reached on a 2-hopper off Yairo Munoz’s chest. Barnhart beat out what would otherwise have been a 4-6-3 double play and Ervin walked to load the bases with 1 out, and draw a visit from Maddux. With Norris warming in the pen, Hicks bore down, struck out Pennington, and got Blandino to pop out to short RF. Cardinals win 6-1.
Miles Mikolas: 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 4 K, 2 BB, 65 GSc
Brandon Finnegan: 4.1 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 4 BB, 23 GSc
- The field was wet, giving outfielders trepidation when making turns and cuts.
- The Cardinals wear their blue caps on the road against red teams, and Yadi’s blue Nike gear makes him look like a Yankee:
- Greg Garcia had never homered against a LHP before today. Is Brandon Finnegan sure he’s left-handed?
- Greg Garcia entered today’s game batting .214/.267/.286 with a 54 wRC+ in 16 PA. He’s now batting .333/.368/.778 with a 214 wRC+ in 20 PA.
- Ozuna killed both of his streaks today. His walkless streak to start the season ended at 65 PA, and his hit streak ended at 12 games.
- Tucker Barnhart homered on his bobblehead day.
- Matheny stated before the game that he was going to get Holland into today’s game, so that probably factored as much into his hook with Mikolas as Miles’ struggles in the 7th.
The Cardinals will go for the sweep on Sunday. Everyone will be wearing #42. The game will start at 12:10 CST, and can be viewed on FSMW & FSO.